When the tragedy of September 11th occurred, I immediately started thinking about disaster planning for my family. When Hurricane Katrina struck, I again started thinking about disaster planning. Today, after the events in Japan, I am still thinking and still not doing.
I’ve asked myself what would I do if the disaster struck while my children and I were separated – me at work, them at school for instance. How would the schools handle things, and how would I get reunited with my children?
I remember on September 11th that I felt compelled to leave work, and rush to the sides of my children. I knew I would just feel better if they were all with me, not spread around three different school buildings. A similar condition still exists today – my five children are in three different schools. How, and in what order would I go to get them, if I even could get to them? How would they all handle the waiting for me, or worse, how would they handle being injured? Could I depend on the school staff to comfort my children and make sure they were as safe as possible? Unfortunately, I think the answer to that question, at least for my three children with disabilities, is NO.
In two of the three schools attended by my children, the teachers of children labeled with severe disabilities are advised not to take their kids outside for fire drills. So, how will the teachers and the students know when the loud buzzer is signaling a drill or an actual event? The cynical me thinks the disaster plan for children with disabilities is to sacrifice them in favor of getting the non-disabled to a safe place.
But what if I was at home with my children when a disaster struck. I asked myself do I have a disaster plan in place, and especially one that addresses the significant needs of my children with disabilities? The answer is no, unless you count the jumbled list of thoughts in my head a disaster plan. So, while I am questioning and suggesting and demanding that my school system develop a comprehensive disaster plan, I need to do the same thing myself at home.
It’s been almost ten years since the September 11th attacks, and still I have done nothing to prepare myself and my family for a disaster. Perhaps the events in Japan will be the impetus I need. I certainly hope so.
After googling a bit, I found some good resources to help me down that path. They are listed below and I suggest everyone, especially families who have family members with special needs, take the time to review them. (Due to high traffic related to the Japan disaster, the Red Cross site may be down intermittently.)